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So who are you?

I watched the paramedic scan the room. He knew the poor gent had died many hours before, so instead of saving a life. Now he had to step into his other role of breaking bad news. But before he could do that, he needed to ask this poor gent, who are you?

Days earlier, I’d visited this house to replace lost car keys. The gent was very old and looked poorly, but he was up and about with the aid of a stick and opened the door to me. His breathing was heavy, but when I asked if he was ok, he told me ’it’s just me chest laddie, been like it years’.

Who are you?

There’d been a problem ordering the key. The car dealers needed ID before I could order the key for him and explained the dealer needed proof of ‘Who are you and is it your car’.

‘No problem’, as he struggled to stand and sort through his mountain of documents.

Eventually I left him, photos taken, and I assured him I’d be back the next day with a key. ‘No problem laddie, I’m not going anywhere’.

Thursday came and there was a problem getting the key. One of the documents I’d photographed was too old, so I dropped back in and knocked the door, but this time there was no reply. It was midmorning, maybe he was having a lie-in. Looking through the window, he gestured to me from the sofa, come on in. He was on the sofa, his breathing heavier.

‘I’m back but no key yet, I need a newer document, sorry.’

‘No problem laddie just find it yourself, in the kitchen dresser. ‘

I knew where they were from the previous day. Searching years of bills and bank statements, I finally found something relevant.

‘I’ll be back tomorrow with your keys. Are you sure you’re ok? ‘

The television was loud, the fire was on full and although the winter day was chilly, the living room was an oven.

‘I’m ok laddie, do you need money, there’s some in the dresser. ‘

There certainly was, there were hundreds in notes, and as a self-employed person working with the elderly, this position of trust we’ll discuss in another blog post.’

‘No money today, I’ll be back tomorrow’

‘No bother, I’m not going anywhere’

The Who are You?’ Day

A cold, dark gloomy Friday came, and time was running away with me, but I had a key and I’d promised the gent I’d be back. So late afternoon, at dusk, I arrived at a house in darkness. I could see the television on, so to save him being disturbed twice, I went into the open garage, programmed the key, and got him mobile again. All that was left, was to give him the key, but when I knocked on the door, there was no reply.

I peered through the glass, deciding whether to come back the next day, but then saw him laid in the darkness and feared the worse. I went in to try and help him, and I’ll spare the details, but this poor gent had fallen and died. Ten minutes earlier I was programming my last car of the week, now an ambulance screamed to a halt and suddenly I was part of his last days.

Back in the room

So now were back in the living room and the paramedic is Sherlock Holmes, piecing together clues, searching for address books, bills, recent mail. All the while asking, ok, so who are you? He’s calling people asking for information, tracking down who he’s allowed to give the news to. All this time, he should be out saving lives, but instead he’s playing detective. I’m struck by how wrong this seems, how difficult it’s all proving.

Then the police arrive and they’re asking me now, who are you? what are you doing here?  Finally, once my statements made, I’m free to go. Then the paramedics stand down, they’ve finally found a relative, but it hasn’t been easy.

So, this has ran around in my head for a while, and I realised how much easier it would’ve been if there’d been a ‘break glass in emergency’ book or card. It just needed a few details, who he was, who to call and that would have made everything so simple.

The ’Bad News Book’

So, I’ve created the ’Bad News Book’, a simple, helpful document that tells everyone what to do in a disaster. How to break the bad news, who to tell. Then how life carries on in the short term, and what happens to the business afterwards. This week is my first stage and it’s breaking the bad news.

The van now has a sticker on the glovebox. Imagine a crash, a heart attack, a stroke, and a paramedic finding myself or Simon. How much easier would it be, if they could open the glovebox and have all those questions answered? So, this is our weeks project. The sticker tells them to open the glovebox and Who are you? ID card including a photo, name, address, who to call. This way the paramedic or police doesn’t dance around on the phone.  No more not saying the wrong thing to the wrong people.

It’s my first step, and already I feel better that if something should happen, some of the guesswork is taken care of. It’s the beginning of the Bad News Book that deals with the worst possible outcome, so that when its finished I can get on with the rest of my days without worry.

Next week, who’s going to sort everything out. Well talk about that.


My Disaster Management

I’m biding my time, stuck behind a slow-moving tractor coming back from a job out of the city. It’s always like this once the farmers start working the fields hard in Lincolnshire, so I’ve got used to it. I’m moving at a steady 45-50 speed on the coast road so there’s no rush anywhere. Then something bizarre happens that scares me to death and gets me thinking about disaster management.

In my mirrors I spot an ambulance. It’s weaving its way through the traffic, back to Lincoln. After a while it’s directly behind me and is clearly in a hurry. We’re on a slow, sweeping left-hand bend and it’s plain to me that the ambulance driver can’t see what’s past me, and I have nowhere to pull over.

Then, unbelievably, it pulls out around me to overtake. There’s a whole procession coming the other way the driver couldn’t have seen. Into the mix is a traffic island, and a slip road with cars waiting to pull out. I’m waiting for the impact that I’m about to witness and wondering how I’ll avoid it all.

The lead, on-coming car, brakes hard to avoid the crash, and who knows what’s happening in the back of the ambulance. They’re oblivious to what’s about to happen in the outside world, as they battle to save a life, unaware they’re going to need their own treatment soon.

I’m shocked because the picture I’m seeing doesn’t make sense. It’s an ambulance, they’re supposed to be helping. It’s like seeing a fire engine ablaze, or a foul-mouthed vicar.

Unbelievably, the ambulance gets past me and the tractor, and miss the oncoming traffic and continues its life-saving journey. How would I have acted as the oncoming car? What would have happened at home, had there been an impact because I was in the mix? I’m close enough to the action and know I’ve dodged a bullet today. Immediately I’m thinking about disaster management. How would this have changed all our lives forever and practically, what happens next after a crash like this?

Time for disaster management

I drive a lot, I know this sort of thing is rare, and maybe it only felt like this too me. Maybe the ambulance driver knew what was happening, it was over in a flash. However, as a business owner, it got me thinking again about life after near-death. In the past I’ve worried alot about how things would unfold, should anything cause me to be out of the picture. I’d go through weeks of worry, but then months of ignorant bliss. As a young under-fifty-year-old, I should be confident of another ten years fit and healthy, but then something like this happens. Or, maybe a famous sub-fifty year old star dies suddenly, and it feels like those we grew up with have gone too early and were vulnerable again. After my recent ambulance near miss, I’ve started on my most ambitious disaster planning exercise yet.

Tim Ferris, the writer of the hugely successful ‘Four Hour’ series of books, talks about exploring the very worst that can happen, he calls it ‘Fear setting’. It involves writing our worst fears down, with a clear set of actions on how to manage the events. These actions would be either for myself, if I was still conscious, or my family if I wasn’t. So, over the next few weeks and months I’m going to take a weekly look at how I put a plan in place that would look everything, should anything happen.

Time to make a plan

This seems quite depressing, but, now that I’m finally serious about it, I feel so much more alive and prepared. There must be hundreds and thousands of business owners who have this similar fear. A life changing event can easily screw everything up, especially if our business relies on us for it to work.
So welcome to my journey for the next few months. From allowing access to bank accounts, to life insurance and practically, how to pay Simon and suppliers. Then long-term, what happens to the business once I’ve gone? At the end of the journey we’ll have a ‘Bad News Book’. It’s a book that we all hope isn’t opened for a very long time.

Do you have one of these books?
Do you have a disaster management plan?

Here we go.